you’re not wasting your time.

The sense of accomplishment after a Monday-Friday school/work week is a beautiful gift in itself. The weekend calls for relaxation. It’s a time to perhaps slow one’s productivity, feel revitalized, and focus on recreation rather than that To-Do list.

But uh-oh.

I haven’t crossed anything off in my planner yet.

I haven’t done enough

You know why? Because I’ve been relaxing.

Whoooooa. In the mindset of “go, go, go, ACCOMPLISH,” it almost feels like until all of my tasks are completed, I should be working, not relaxing.

How entirely false that is!

Of course, there’s an essential balance between work and relaxation, of which we are all aware to some extent. However, in the midst of this holiday season, it’s most likely that you’re given more time off school (or work), which means you have more time to decide how you’re going to use that time. It’s a lot easier to be productive when it’s incorporated into your schedule, isn’t it? (or maybe that’s just me…)

The reason I’m writing this is because I’m currently on what we call “Thanksgiving Break,” and yesterday, I was in a bit of a sour mood throughout the day, even though I did just about everything I wanted to do. I saw my horse, I went to the gym, I took a nap… it was a beautiful day with many beautiful moments. When people asked me how I was doing, I responded by saying:

I’m okay.

or

Ehhhhhh. 

“Why, Siena, are you just okay?”

Because I feel so unproductive. I feel like I wasted my entire day. 

My favorite response was this: “You didn’t waste your day. You actually did things. You saw your horse, you wrote an essay, you got things done. That’s not a wasted day.”

Wow. Hm. That’s so entirely true. We automatically define productivity in one way or another. If you’re a student like me, you probably see productivity in terms of your assignments — the books you have to read, the papers you have to write, etc.

But there are many different kinds of productivity, and if you’re using your time to 1) be genuinely happy 2) be introspective/reflective or 3) be with people (or pets) that you love, isn’t that some form of productivity? Is sitting with your best friend having a fascinating conversation any less productive (or intellectually/emotionally stimulating) than writing an essay?

Especially during the holiday season in which we are called to spend less time huddled in our textbooks and keyboards and more time cuddled around the fireplace, don’t feel like you’re wasting your time, because you aren’t. (And if that doesn’t convince you, science will. Realize that your body is producing carbon dioxide for plants with every exhale, so you’re literally never being unproductive. Your plant brothers & sisters thank you).

Productivity isn’t always checking something off in your planner. Productivity is more so living with passion, acting in ways that authentically enhance your life and/or the lives of those around you.

Your time is precious, and you aren’t wasting it. Go smile.

inter[DON’T]act

I was falling asleep maybe a week or two ago, simultaneously thinking of possible blog posts as I was slipping into my sleep cycle (fun fact: one of my most creative and zany times of the day is the ten or so minutes before I fall asleep). Somehow I thought of inter[DON’T]act. So I invite you to read this ramble and hear me out. Allow me to explain. Maybe you’ll learn something new, or maybe you’ll be reminded of something that is relevant to your life right now.

First, I need to preface a bit before I delve into the actual point of my writing.

We are constantly interacting. Communication is everywhere. I’m communicating with you right now through these words. The world is constantly communicating ideas with us, and we communicate with everyone around us whether we realize it or not.

An essential part of communication is interaction. Google defines interaction as “reciprocal action or influence.” We put forth an action, and expect a sort of response or acknowledgement of that action. The concept makes sense and it seems simple, but it’s actually quite complex. To me, the question is not how but why. 

I’ve been spending a good bit of time lately thinking about how I interact with others. Lately, I’ve had moments where I’ve attentively reflected on my emotions, my moods, my word choices, and my actions. What was my motivation for saying a certain phrase? What was the root of my frustration or my happiness? Why?

So, I’ve pondered, I’ve ruminated, and I’ve gained some answers through my introspection. That brings me to the title this post: inter[DON’T]act. I’m not saying “don’t interact.” I’m saying “don’t act while interacting.

If you haven’t realized, I’m quite the perfectionist. While I think I’ve made my self-expectations more reasonable, I still love reaching the highest bar that I set for myself. I love assuring myself that others will perceive me as a completely positive individual without flaws, negativity, or weaknesses.

But hm. Would I be completely human without my flaws? Would I completely real without my weaknesses? Would the happy moments be so happy if I didn’t have the not-so-happy moments to balance out the good times?

Occasionally, I find myself feeling guilty for feeling angry, being angry at myself for feeling sad, or being sad simply because I’m not happy. Then sometimes I like to mask this negativity by suppressing it and pretending it doesn’t exist because how ABSOLUTELY terrible it would be to admit that I’m fully human and that sometimes my perception of the human experience is not perfectly joyful. (I hope you feel my sarcasm, but here’s a note to acknowledge it in case you didn’t realize how facetious that was). It’s healthy to have that emotional balance.

Clarification: I’m not encouraging anyone to act as a fountain of negativity to the people and world around you. No, no, no. However, I’m calling us all to question the authenticity of our actions and emotions, and comprehend that it’s okay to not be completely happy 100% of every second of every moment of every day of every month of every year. Everyone needs a little saltiness here and there. It keeps us human.

Being consistently genuine is a challenging yet invigorating experience, especially in the midst of a society that is so heavily judgmental and has such standardized expectations of the human person. Now since you read this (thanks by the way), I’m going to assign you and me some homework: “Don’t act when you interact. Be when you interact. Be who you are.”

“I’ll be happy later.”

Things have been interesting lately, to say the least. It’s the sum of little peculiarities that have formed a fascinating recent past for me. As I delve into my future moment by moment, the spontaneity of life still shocks me. From the encounters with intuition my friends and I have experienced lately (feeling like something would happen, and then having it happen soon after), to the random blessings along with the difficulties God throws down at me from above… the uncertainty is electrifying. 

In this whirlwind of experiences encompassing the past weeks, emotions have run high. Feelings of happiness and joy have been radiated through strong smiles and stomach-paining laughter, but other moments have consisted of anxious thoughts, an occasionally fearful mindset, and a thirst for the comfort of predictability. This spectrum of human emotion is undoubtedly a gift; it provides our lives with the contrast we unknowingly crave. We are sometimes challenged to overcome hardship, but we’re also given beautiful moments to remind us how incredible life is, along with the people and entities in it that fill our hearts with love every day.

That being said, I want to take a moment to focus on the lower half of the emotion spectrum: the less happy, more stressed, angry or sorrowful… the feelings that are mostly perceived as “negative.” In the midst of these less-than-positive emotions, it’s dangerously easy to cling to the negativity. Have you ever realized that it’s much easier to maintain a pessimistic mindset rather than an optimistic one? It’s much more difficult to be cheered up than it is to be brought down. 

We can apply this mindset to the bigger picture of life. Maybe you don’t agree with me, which is completely fine, but I ask you to think about the following. Do you ever find yourself saying anything similar to…?

“I’ll be happy when I’m finished with this test.”

“I’ll be happy tomorrow.”

“I’ll be happy in ten years when…”

I think we all say or think these things, to some degree, in some form, in one way or another. At least I’m certain that I do. I say that I’ll be happy later because I’m too preoccupied with the pessimism at hand. I make excuses in a particular moment because it seems that being happy isn’t possible when I’m flooded with an enormous amount of stress or anger. This isn’t a constant feeling — I’m generally an optimist… but even optimists have their moments of pessimism. A significant step to conquering pessimism is being a bit metacognitive, realizing how our thoughts and emotions are brewing in our minds.

Try not to misunderstand me — I’m not saying we should belittle our negativity when it finds us, because we shouldn’t invalidate our emotions (nor should we invalidate those of others). Not every moment is meant to be a happy one. Not every moment is meant to be enjoyed. But it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be grateful for every moment… because we should be. 

All of the above words have finally brought me to my point: do not be ignorant to the beauty of life. Realize that you can be happy now. Your current state of life is an incredible gift. Remember it.

my special socks

I wouldn’t consider myself a superstitious person. If I spill some salt, I move on with my day without much recognition of the “luck factor.” So for that reason, I use the word “special” instead of “lucky” in my writing today.

Let me begin by telling you that I have two main sock drawers. The lower-right sock drawer is the haphazard one, with multicolored socks of various materials and lengths enveloping each other in a rainbow of patterns. The upper-left sock drawer is the organized, homogenized, orderly sock drawer, with solid white socks that extend comfortably over my ankle. These socks receive the most of my use, since I wear them almost every day. I have several different brands of socks in this drawer, but most of them are gold-toe socks with a thick and slightly rough material. They aren’t my favorite, but they still deserve to have some feet to hug.

There is one particular pair of socks that always puts me in a good mood. I’m wearing them right now, actually. I don’t believe that the socks themselves create a good day for me (which is why they are SPECIAL and not LUCKY). But for some reason, these socks constantly serve as a reminder to enjoy (or at least try to enjoy) every moment that this day gives me. Putting on these socks is like putting on a smile (corny, I know, but I’m Siena so don’t expect anything less).

No–I definitely don’t need these socks in order to smile (as proof, note that I frequently smile while I’m completely barefoot), and more importantly, I surely don’t need these socks to be happy. I’m really not even talking about the socks, even though they are comfortable and wonderful. My actual point is something that I like to remind people, including myself… the beauty of life is often found in the simplest things. Things like the radio, cats, cookies, smiles, hugs, and socks.

I hope that every time you see a sock from this moment onward, you realize how beautiful life is!

am i sorry?

Apologies are a particularly interesting concept to me.

“I’m sorry that happened to you.”

“I’m sorry for stepping on your toe.”

“I’m really sorry if I accidentally offended you…”

(Directed to my horse): “I’m sorry if I wasn’t a good rider today.”

Forgive me.

My mind loves apologizing. These “apologies” don’t even always make sense, but they offer me a sense of security. Ah, I apologized, so now other people will perceive me more positively. 

Yesterday, I was in the mood to have an intellectual conversation, so I sat down with a few friends of mine and discussed various ideas of social differences, personality types, ways to approach social situations… the list goes on. One of my friends said something especially fascinating, a statement along the lines of, “I’m making it a point to stop apologizing to people for being myself. I shouldn’t be sorry for my personality.”

That resonated with me in a profoundly powerful manner. I suppose it’s because we all have bad habits, our little idiosyncrasies, and apologizing for unnecessary things happens to be one of mine. Don’t get me wrong — sometimes my apologies are in fact necessary, polite, or expected in a certain circumstance. However, most of the time, I apologize for silly things.

“Sorry if that sounded weird.”

“I’m sorry that I’ve been busy lately!”

“Sorry if I talked too much…”

Perhaps it stems from an insecurity. Maybe if I apologize enough, people will forget about their negative perception of me in a given moment (for example, if I was supposedly too energetic, too loud, too weird, or even too busy). It’s rooted in my perfectionism, my desire to attain an unreasonable expectation. However, my friend’s statement really spoke to me.

The concept of apologizing is one that is rooted in interpersonal perception — I care about what you think of me, and you and I both care about what I think of you, therefore I’ll try to fix or better our mutual situation through apologizing. The problem is, the words “I’m sorry” don’t mean quite as much when they’re thrown around like the words yes, no, and OK. On top of that, a lot of times when I apologize in this way, people have to ask why I’m even apologizing… which makes me realize that my apology was not necessary whatsoever. Even more importantly, my friend explained that we should never apologize for being ourselves. Apologies should not become mechanisms of relief for our psyches. I believe they should only be used in situations in which a genuine apology is required to coat a past mistake or downfall.

Well, I’ll admit it. I over-apologize. It’s a habit I have, and a habit I have to break.

I call you all to be more aware of when and how you use the word sorry, and think twice about your apologies. I’ll try to do the same. Here’s a good question for both of us to ask ourselves: are you actually sorry?